Welcome to the Keen on Yoga Podcast with Angela Jamison. Angela is the founder and director of Ashtanga Yoga Ann Arbor, located in Michigan, USA.
She grew up on an isolated farm / intentional community in rural Montana, a remote mountain area of the northern US. From there, she was lucky to receive a scholarship to attend college to study Philosophy and Journalism in Oregon. In the year 2000 Angela discovered ashtanga in Seattle. The primary series helped her to heal from severe intestinal parasites acquired while living in Central America.
In 2001 she moved to Los Angeles to attend grad school at UCLA. Soon afterwards she was hit by a car in a crosswalk. This near fatal accident resulted in a day of full body paralysis. Subsequently her commitment to ashtanga to heal from that trauma was firmed. She spent the rest of her 20s studying two very different topics with equal intensity – the sociology of American empire, and the practice of ashtanga yoga. It was a wonderful time and place for ashtanga. Of the many practitioners and teachers who helped her, the strongest influences were Maty Ezraty and Chuck Miller. In addition, their student Heather, now Radha Carlisi. However, Dominic Corigliano is the teacher who most impacted her during that time. He taught her to assist him in 2007.
In 2009, Angela moved to Ann Arbor for a visiting assistant professor position at the university there. In the same year she travelled to Mysore for the first time to study with R Sharath Jois. After strong encouragement from him, she finally left the university and started teaching yoga full time in 2011. She spent her 30s slowly building community and teaching, with 2-4 months each year in India studying the yoga tradition. Sharath gave her his blessing as a certified teacher in 2017.
The best preparation she had for directing a shala was working a variety of jobs. Including union organizing, waiting tables, administrative positions at Amnesty International and a library, and teaching undergraduates at UCLA. This background led her to see her work both as directing a school – just as our teachers in India model – and also as a form of community building. Growing up “off the grid” surrounded by survivalists has shaped her idea that ashtanga can be a key resource during times of social upheaval. This is because it helps us cultivate both robust physical health, and robust communities. Thereby allowing us to learn complex forms of empathy and cooperation, which help us in difficult times.
Online Covid Impact
During Covid, her work has mostly migrated online – to a digital platform students built to facilitate ongoing connection and learning. Dozens of students from the early years of the her work have found their way back to what they call the shadowshala. In addition, new people have found it too. The chance to re-connect with early students who now live around the world, and see people learn to sustain a home practice in the midst of great challenges, has been extremely meaningful. But she is eager to return to the sort of real-live practice that can only happen in a Mysore room with everyone breathing and moving together.
You can find out more about Angela on her website.